News & Politics

Biden Wants Schools Open; His Teachers' Union Allies Disagree

AP Photo/Marta Lavandier

In case you haven’t noticed, schools are closing again. This, despite Joe Biden saying that all the money we keep spending to make schools safe should allow them to stay open.

“For example, last year, we thought the only way to keep your children safe was to close our schools. Today we know more, and we have more resources to keep those schools open. You can get 5- to 11-year-olds vaccinated, a tool we didn’t have until last month. Today we don’t have to shut down schools because of a case of COVID-19.”

But the schools are shutting down, often with little notice for parents and mass confusion for everyone else.

He reiterated the point later in his speech.

“Look, the science is clear, and overwhelming. We know how to keep our kids safe from COVID-19 in school. K through 12 schools should be open. And that safety is increased if schools require all adults who work in the schools to get vaccinated, and take the safety measures that the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has recommended, including masking.

Vaccines, masks, tests — it should be enough to keep the schools from shutting down, right?

Wrong. Despite $197 billion in extra aid to schools to deal with COVID, there continue to be spot closings of schools — sometimes for a couple of days, sometimes for a couple of weeks.

It depends on how influential the local teacher’s unions are.

Democratic-controlled (and teachers union-influenced) states and cities have been the most closed (and most likely to include masking mandates); Republican-controlled polities have been more open and less masked. And private schools everywhere have been more open than their government-run counterparts.

There is every reason to suspect that this pattern will reassert itself during the omicron surge. Blue states have more teacher (and sometimes even student) vaccine mandates, bigger labor shortages, and more scale-thumbing by unions. To say something facially absurd yet annoyingly true, the places that voted for Joe Biden will be the most likely to not deliver on the president’s aspiration that “K through 12 schools should be open.”

Parents want their kids to be safe, and abundant evidence indicates that children — even if they’re unvaccinated — pose little threat to other kids. But close behind safety is predictability, among parents’ concerns. And right now, schools are failing in that regard.

Related: Schools Closing Again and It’s Not Entirely Due to Pandemic

The school tracking website Burbio shows how badly schools are failing children and parents.

Prince George’s County, MD school district, one of the nation’s largest with over 200 schools, will be virtual from December 20th through January 14th. ‘Educators, administrators and support staff must be able to deliver in-person instruction and other activities in conditions that prioritize their own health, as well as the wellbeing of the school community,’ reads the release.

Hamtramck, MI public schools will be virtual for a week post-New Years. ‘Out of an abundance of caution, we’re implementing a week of virtual learning upon the break’s end,’ writes the Superintendent.

Dover Middle School, PA shifted to virtual learning December 17th. ‘In consultation with a Pennsylvania Department of Health epidemiologist, due to a drastic rise in COVID-19 cases and subsequent quarantining, the Dover Area Middle School will be shifting to virtual learning,’ reads the note.”

There are reports that some of these “virtual learning centers” are empty shells with no teachers to man them. And, as usual, kids aren’t showing up for class.

Parents’ frustration with all this nonsense hasn’t reached critical mass — yet. But when it does, teachers and administrators had better be prepared for the explosion.